Review: The Enchanted Oracle by Jessica Galbreth
Llewellyn Publications, 2008
Review by Kim Huggens
Anybody who’s been around the Pagan community for a while will probably be familiar with the fantastical, bewitching artwork of Jessica Galbreth. If not, you can check it out at her website. In Galbreth’s artistic vision,
“An enchanted place awaits, filled with gossamer fairies and haunting deities.
A place where enchantresses weave their spells beneath the light of the full moon, and faeries dressed in their finery stand pensively before gothic arches and twisted trees.” (from the artist’s website.)
A great number of people love her artwork, so it should come as no surprise to discover that Llewellyn have this month released an oracle deck filled with it: The Enchanted Oracle. Sadly, most of the artwork for the deck was created well before the deck was even a twinkle in its creator’s eye, with only a couple of pieces being painted specifically for it. For me this is an instant turn-off in a Tarot or oracle deck, though less so for an oracle since there is less traditional symbolism and meaning to work around. However, as soon as I picked up the deck I realized that whilst the cards were beautiful and sumptuous, filled with beauty and splendour, they just weren’t speaking to me. I could sit and stare at “Celtic Witch” for ages and not get any divinatory meanings from the image or the card title. Luckily, Llewellyn’s stock-in-trade Tarot companion book author, Barbara Moore (also the author of books for the Mystic Faerie Tarot, Gilded Tarot, and Mystic Dreamer Tarot) has written an accompanying book. In this book she really squeezes symbolism out of the card images:
“The orange jewel of her headpiece is attached with many cords, showing that she intentionally weaves enthusiasm and joy through her life.”
~ pp.100, “Gypsy Rose”
The 36 cards of this deck don’t explicitly deal with the main areas of life like most other oracle decks do. Instead, they are given exotic, mysterious names that ooze fantasy: Dragon Witch, Dark Enchantment, Gothic Rose, Crimson Moon… The images are pretty, the titles very cool, but this deck really requires the book to read effectively.
From taking a quick look at the cards it is clear who the target audience of this deck is. There are no fat people, no old women (even in cards where crones should probably be present), and very few men. Every single faery, sorceress, and gothic mermaid is young, stunningly attractive, with huge breasts that defy both gravity and anatomy. These faeries may indeed weave their enchantments in a magical realm, but they’re doing it with extreme back pain. And here we have a supreme example of “fantasy artwork”.
As a set this deck would make a wonderful gift, especially for the younger female who is still in the dabbling phase of witchcraft and Paganism. The book is really an asset to the deck in this way: every card is accompanied by an enchantment, charm, journalling exercise, visualization, or spell. They are the kind of small magics you’d find in a teenage witch spellbook, with titles such as “A Little Glamour Never Hurt”, “Healing Waters”, and “What Colour is your Karma?” They are mere curios to a serious student of magic, but would be fun and positive for somebody just beginning. They are also all aimed at putting the power to change in the hands of the reader – again, something that can only be seen as positive.
The set comes with an “enchanted faery pendant” that can be (apparantly) used as a pendulum or charm. What it actually is, is a tiny metal pendant of Disney’s Tinkerbelle, with pink glittery wings. The deck is also accompanied by a silvery-grey organza bag for storage, which adds to the set’s beauty as a gift.
Overall, the Enchanted Oracle is very pretty, and is a great showcase of the artist’s work. It’s not a serious deck for study however, or for anybody with an allergic reaction to faery princesses. However you may criticize it for being too “fluffy”, though, we have to bear in mind that to do so would be akin to going to Burger King and ordering a Double Bacon Cheeseburger, then complaining because its’ not haute cuisine.
Kim Huggens is a 24 year old Pagan Tarot reader and PhD student in the Ancient History Department of Cardiff University. She is the co-creator of “Sol Invictus: The God Tarot” (recently published by Schiffer Books) and the forthcoming “Pistis Sophia: The Goddess Tarot”. She has had recent work published in Horns of Power, edited by Sorita D’Este, and is the Editor of online Pagan magazine Offerings. When not getting orgasmic about ancient voodoo dolls and Sumerian cunieform writing, she works in a vetinary clinic, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and practices Vodou.